"Walk the Line" follows the life of country music legend Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) from little JR to the Man in Black. It is a story of his illicit love for fellow artist June Carter (Reese Witherspoon) and his rebellion against his unloving father (Robert Patrick).
"Walk the Line" based on Cashs autobiographies, Cash and Man in Black is the story of the rise, fall and rebirth of the great Johnny Cash. More than simply a film about Cash, it is also a commentary on the delicate balance required to "walk the line" between work and home, stardom and destruction.
If the actors, the script and the cinematography are the pieces, then the music is the glue that unifies the whole. All of Cashs hits are there: "Ring of Fire," "Cry Cry Cry," "Folsom Prison Blues, "Cocaine Blues," and the title song "I Walk the Line," each flawlessly integrated and employed to compliment and further the plot.
The movie opens with Cash standing next to a table-saw in the bleak woodshop of Californias Folsom Prison. Loud cheering from a crowd of inmates supplements his daydreaming as we are led into a flashback of his life up to this point.
When Cash is just a kid, his older brother, whom he respected and loved dearly, dies when a woodsaw malfunctions. His father blames Johnny for the death, and creates lasting scars with the words, "He took the wrong son." Cash marries Vivian (Ginnifer Goodwin) and is signed to Sun Records. He makes it big, but it is not all good news: Johnny starts to mess around with his young female fans, painkillers and alcohol.
On tour he falls in love at first sight with June Carter, a comedian and singer. Cash kills their blooming friendship when he tries to kiss her and she rejects his advances. The rejection depresses him, and he drinks the night away with his fellow musicians.
When June walks into the auditorium, ready to practice for that afternoons show, she finds all the men drunk and becomes irate, yelling "Yall cant walk no line! Youre gonna ruin the show!"
After this, June and Johnny disassociate and Johnny begins to spiral downward. He falls away from his family and friends and retreats into alcohol and drugs. His familial relations strain even further and finally snap when he begins hanging up pictures of June around the house. With his drug addiction now in full swing, June and her family come to his rescue. "Youre an angel," he tells her.
After collecting himself, Johnny reconnects with his audience: specifically jailbirds. He plays his famous concert at Folsom Prison, and we return to the opening scene of the film with him standing next to a table saw in the woodshop.
Colin: There is no getting around it, men, Walk the Line is a romantic drama but not a sappy chick-flick. It is good enough to win any audience with its touching, defiant story, great music (sung flawlessly by the actors themselves), and Oscar-worthy performances by Phoenix and Witherspoon.
The acting in the movie is truly phenomenal and sure to draw nods from every cinematic award show. Phoenix plays Cash with merciless emotion and the chemistry between him and Witherspoon is practically tangible.
Lindsay: Singing their own vocals, Phoenix and Witherspoon sound amazing, but much like Jamie Foxs Ray Charles portrayal in, Ray, its Phoenixs remarkable performance as Johnny Cash that drives the film to excellence. The distinct, rough, rebellious sound ("Steady like a train, sharp like a razor") that made Cash famous, even outselling the Beatles at his peak, is artfully mastered by Phoenix, as is Cashs raw, rough-and-tumble attitude.
"Walk the Line" is a brilliant biopic, but more than that, it is an excellent and entertaining film, among the best of 2005. Its easily comparable to Ray, Million Dollar Baby, and Cinderella Man, especially in the Oscar buzz department. Nominations are predicted for Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director, among others.
At number two in the box-office this weekend with a little over $22 million, an impressive amount, especially opening against Harry Potter, "Walk the Line" is definitely a film worth seeing, and one you can expect to hear more about in the months leading up to Oscar season.